The provinces are ruled by removable earls appointed by the king, often his own kinsmen, sometimes the heads of old ruling families. The “hundreds” make up the province or subkingdom. They may be granted to king’s thanes, who became “hundred-elders”. Twelve hundreds are in one case bestowed upon a man.
The “yeoman’s” estate is not only honourable but useful, as Starcad generously and truly acknowledges. Agriculture should be fostered and protected by the king, even at the cost of his life.
But gentle birth and birth royal place certain families above the common body of freemen (landed or not); and for a commoner to pretend to a king’s daughter is an act of presumption, and generally rigorously resented.
The “smith” was the object of a curious prejudice, probably akin to that expressed in St. Patrick’s “Lorica”, and derived from the smith’s having inherited the functions of the savage weapon-maker with his poisons and charms. The curious attempt to distinguish smiths into good and useful swordsmiths and base and bad goldsmiths seems a merely modern explanation: Weland could both forge swords and make ornaments of metal. Starcad’s loathing for a smith recalls the mockery with which the Homeric gods treat Hephaistos.
Slavery.—As noble birth is manifest by fine eyes and personal beauty, courage and endurance, and delicate behaviour, so the slave nature is manifested by cowardice, treachery, unbridled lust, bad manners, falsehood, and low physical traits. Slaves had, of course, no right either of honour, or life, or limb. Captive ladies are sent to a brothel; captive kings cruelly put to death. Born slaves were naturally still less considered, they were flogged; it was disgraceful to kill them with honourable steel; to accept a slight service from a slave-woman was beneath old Starcad’s dignity. A man who loved another man’s slave-woman, and did base service to her master to obtain her as his consort, was looked down on. Slaves frequently ran away to escape punishment for carelessness, or fault, or to gain liberty.
The evidence of Saxo to archaic law and customary institutions is pretty much (as we should expect) that to be drawn from the Icelandic Sagas, and even from the later Icelandic rimur and Scandinavian kaempe-viser. But it helps to complete the picture of the older stage of North Teutonic Law, which we are able to piece together out of our various sources, English, Icelandic, and Scandinavian. In the twilight of Yore every glowworm is a helper to the searcher.
There are a few maxims of various times, but all seemingly drawn from custom cited or implied by Saxo as authoritative:—